Last couple of email exchanges with Ben Morton MP

Morton, Ben (MP)Tue, Jun 30, 11:19 AM
to me

Thanks Tauel,

I do think the term “defund” is a little excessive and I confirmed that there will be a reduction in the subsidy for some subjects but not a complete removal.

Perhaps we can agree with partial defunding for some subjects and an increase in others.

Taxpayer subsidies should be weighted to meet future skills need.

I have no problem in applying greater subsidies in areas of STEM and reduce subsidies in areas where there is an oversupply of graduates.

Regards

Ben

Tauel Harper <tauel.harper@gmail.com>Fri, Jul 17, 11:25 AM (1 day ago)
to Ben

Dear Ben,
I have left this alone for a couple of weeks because I can see that you don’t actually have an argument for why this policy idea is any good.


However, as the vote on this issue approaches I will point out the speciousness of the evidence you’ve presented so far in response to my concerns.


The policy mandates that the tertiary sector supply training to more people for the same amount of money. That means that the sector will be receiving less money per student across the board. If you are afraid of calling that ‘defunding’, ok, but can you at least acknowledge that you are asking the tertiary sector to do more work without any more money? That means there will be cost cutting, more casualised work force, greater reliance on overseas students and less opportunities for a great tertiary education for Australians, particularly disadvantaged Australians.

Certainly some subjects are receiving more subsidies while others are losing subsidies. Unfortunately, as pointed out elsewhere this will have perverse effects on the academic system. As things stand, high enrollments in Arts based subjects (that are relatively cheap to teach, but also offer great social, financial and entrepreneurial value for our society and the people who graduate from them) subsidise the high cost of science based subjects (where leading edge equipment such as SKA and gravitational field scopes can cost hundreds of millions or billions of dollars, even if they produce no social value). IF arts enrollments drop, Universities will not have the funds to facilitate MORE training in Science and Engineering, they will need to cap entrants into those ‘high cost’ degrees and teach them less. Of course, this sort of perverse effect of market interference is why your party generally opposes the kind of command economy you’re supporting here. I still wonder why you’ve suddenly become a Stalinist on this?

And while taxpayers ought to get value for their subsidies, it is impossible to argue that the LNP understands what the skills needed in the future would be (If science is going to be so important in the future, then why constantly defund the CSIRO?). More importantly, there is a huge difference between a Communication and Media Studies degree from UWA, where over 85% of graduates find full time work within a year of graduating, and a Communication and Media degree from somewhere like Bond University where the rates are more like  50%, so why would you treat them all the same? Conversely why is Communication subsidised despite having reasonable employment outcomes as a sector, while ‘creative industries’ is fully subsidised despite having one of the worst? Quite aside from the flawed justice behind that, these fields of education are often interchangable these days, so a university could easily ‘re-bagde’ their communications degree as a creative industry degree, just with a slight loss of productivity and more red tape (again, were they LNP values?).  So  hope you can see that the policy makes no sense, is quite ineffective, highly unjust and generally unworkable.

And please tell me, IF the aim of the policy was to ensure that Universities do not oversupply graduates to the market, then why not tie student subsidies in each University and each unique discipline to the proportion of graduates from that discipline that enter full time work within a year of graduating? This would be a simpler metric to police, it would be fairer across the board and it would actually incentivise the entire tertiary sector to make students job ready. It would position the market as the determiner of training subsidies, rather than the ideology of the LNP. Tell me why that isn’t a fairer system that makes more sense? Why resort to Stalinism when you could approach this like Milton Friedman?

Don’t get me wrong, I think this policy will destroy your government regardless, as a team that could find $300 billion for military spending couldn’t find any money to help protect or improve its world leading tertiary education sector, and instead you are abandoning that sector, along with the future of this nation.
However, as a citizen I’ll be doing everything I can to show that I wasn’t on the wrong side of history on this policy – and that I could see how stupid it is. I am trying to give you the chance to do the same. If you don’t take the chance, your support for this policy (and your weak engagement with me about it) will be like an albatross around your neck for whatever remains of your political career.

best wishes,
Tauel Harper